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Literature / Tacky the Penguin

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Tacky the Penguin is the opening book to a series about a group of sedate, proper penguins — with one very different member. Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect live happily and quietly in a nice icy place, their peace and propriety mostly disturbed by the appropriately named Tacky, the odd bird out. However, time after time, Tacky's oddity proves to be a help to or even the salvation of him and his companions.

The Tacky the Penguin books are written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.


These books include examples of the following tropes:

  • Body Sled: In one of the books, the group winds up accidentally using Tacky as a sled during a bob-sledding competition. They're disqualified for not using a proper sled.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Tacky, of course.
  • Counting to Potato: "Odd bird" Tacky always counts, "One, two three, four, two, three, six, zero, two and a half, zero", according to the first book. In Three Cheers for Tacky, he gets numbers mixed up with the alphabet while trying to learn the other penguins' cheerleading chant for a competition.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: The heroes of the series are a small group of penguins.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Tacky and the Winter Games has Tacky swallowing a baton whole after he mistakes it for a hot dog.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: While Tacky stays at home in most of the books, his perpetual flowery shirt reflects his "odd" personality and falls into the "carefree person" subtrope. In Tacky in Trouble, he gets taken home by an elephant because she wants some flowers to pretty up her table.
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  • Meaningful Name: The names of all the penguins say something about their personalities. Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect are proper and sedate, as befits their names. Tacky wears a loud Hawaiian shirt, sings odd songs, and otherwise acts out and disrupts the quiet and perfect lives of the others.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: In Tacky and the Emperor, Tacky finds the Emperor's regalia when he goes for a swim. He goes back to his friends after putting it on, and they, thinking he's the Emperor, do everything for Tacky they had been planning to do for him. Luckily, the Emperor winds up liking Tacky's improvised welcome.
  • Off the Rails: In Tackylocks and the Three Bears, Tacky and the others do a play for a group of penguin schoolchildren. Tacky eats all the porridge (rather than only Baby Bear's) and falls asleep in the beds after rumpling them and dislodging the set dressing. When his friends finally wake him up, he initiates a pillow fight. However, the penguin children actually find this far more entertaining than if the show had gone as planned.
  • Smack on the Back: Tacky greets people with "a hearty slap on the back." In the original book, he nearly knocks over one of his friends and one of the hunters this way.